Saturday, September 08, 2012

A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls
By Patrick Ness
Original idea by Siobhan Dowd
Illustrations by Jim Kay

What does it take to consider a book as a classic? Does it require it to be read by at least a few generation of readers? Or does it announce itself with a bang that cannot be mistaken for anything other than being a classic? A Monster Calls announces itself early on, very early on - that it is a ready to be considered as a classic - a tear jerker, an emotional wringer of a tale, a tale that tells us to face the truth, that we are all aware of, but refuse to accept. A tale which would open up the flood gates of our own anxiety and tears.

Conor is a good, frightened(A diversion here - although these two words do not go together always - many times we remain good because we are frightened - frightened to fight back, frightened that we will hurt some one, frightened that we will hurt ourselves)  boy living under the shadow of his mother's cancer. He tries to be the best kid for his mother, but he has his secrets - which he considers as dark, very dark. One night a monster walks into his life and decides to tell him 3 stories. The stories which are baffling and seem to veer away from what is the established right or wrong. The monster makes him tell his own story - his own dark secret - as the final story. The monster wants the truth.

Patrick Ness keeps you guessing - what can be more nightmarish than a monster walking into a almost-teenager's life at mid-night? What is the truth? What is so frightening that the kid is hesitant even to discuss with a scary monster?

While his not-so nightmarish incidents occur with the monster, his life outside goes on - his mother's medical condition gets more serious, he gets bullied by his school mates, teachers look at him with sympathy, he irritates the only friend he has in the school and his estranged father decides to pay him a visit.

The book could not have worked as well as it did - if not for the creepy, nightmarish illustrations that accompany the writing. The illustrations by Jim Kay are exceptional and painted in dark black and white. It is almost a metaphor for the fact that life is not always in black or white - it has shades of grey and multitude of other colours - but, these refuse to make an appearance in the book.

Probably the only book to have won both the Kate Greenway Award for illustrations and Carnegie Medal for writing in the same year(2012)- there is absolutely no doubt that this book will be a classic. A classic that will be read by kids and adults alike.


ranjani.sathish said...

Now I am really tempted to pick the book which is lying around !

Choxbox said...

Sounds quite intriguing Sathish, will pick it up - thanks!

Zealot Readers said...

Very intriguing indeed. Very well written review Sathish.

sathish said...

ranjani, you should pick it up. It is a pretty intense book emotionally.

Choxbox, Zealot readers - please do pick it up.

utbtkids said...

"many times we remain good because we are frightened - frightened to fight back"

Very very true Satish.

sathish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sathish said...

utbt kids,

I wonder how many times that line has applied to oneself as well.

And that is also a sort of the crux of this book - hide away from the truth that one is already aware of.

Playing by the book said...

Glad to read your review Satish - this was one of the most moving books I read last year.

And yes, it is the *only* book ever to have one both the Carnegie and the Greenaway.

sathish said...


Thank you. It is one of the most moving books I think I will read this year.

Something that comes close to this is the movie on 'the boy with striped pajamas'. I've not read the book yet; probably will not after seeing the movie.

sandhya said...

Any idea if the other editions are also illustrated by the same illustrator? They are far cheaper than this edition. I would want to be sure that they carry the same award winning illustrations. Thinking of ordering it on flipkart.

sathish said...


Please look for the edition with this cover page.
The book is now marketed for adults separately without the illustrations. You may have to avoid that.

or you can borrow it from us. :)

Sheela said...

Sathish, "What is the truth? What is so frightening that the kid is hesitant even to discuss with a scary monster?"

Sounds intriguing and frightening at the same time, am I ready to find out?

sandhya said...

Thank you for lending me this book, Sathish and Ranjani. It is certainly an extremely intense book. I was in tears while reading it, as it invoked some of my own monsters. It would be a very healing book, too, for some, I would say.

Arundhati said...

(wondering how I missed this review)

Brilliant and very compelling review, Satish. Seem like the book will be, too. Hope the lib has a copy

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